Another World is Possible – and Necessary
On the closing day of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, Serge Latouche, a French economist, professor and philosopher, and Stefano Zamagni, an Italian economist and professor, discussed the creation of alternative world economies on stage at the Carignano Theater. The discussion was riveting and inspirational, and did its best to deliver practical examples of how individuals can initiate real changes in society.
Mr. Latouche is known for his criticism of Western economic systems based on the idea of infinite growth, and cites the endemic inequalities within this mainstream paradigm which focuses on profit before people. Clearly, we need new voices, and a new orientation to the debate. Latouche’s theory of ‘degrowth’ calls not for the creation of one-size fits all system, but a matrix of alternatives developed to work for different areas of the world. He credits many schools of philosophy, from Buddhism and Taoism to traditional African wisdom to Aristotle, including examples of how to establish balanced measures. As Mr. Zamagni explained, ‘the current economic system, the issue of the environment, and peace are three keystone pillars that are all inter-connected. They can’t be addressed individually, but as parts of a whole’. He gave the example that economic inequalities cause migration flows, which in turn have an impact on the environment and prospects for peace.
Challenging a centuries-old paradigm will not be easy, but it is necessary in order to change the course of our future. Both speakers emphasized the importance of taking action at all levels, whether that be individual, local, regional, and beyond. Serge Latouche spoke about the need to “de-colonize” our imaginations from the standardized teachings that have been propagated by those in power. By making a break with the current system, individuals will begin to change the minds of those around them, which will build more agitation and advance progress towards new frameworks.
Mr. Zamagni offered the term ‘transformation’ to describe this process, defining it as including three dimensions: growth, social relations, and spirituality, which must move them together in equilibrium. When growth is singled out and promoted at the expense of the other two dimensions, the system falls out of balance and creates inequality.
As for practical steps for the future, Mr. Latouche recommended strengthening solidarity groups, such as Slow Food, at the regional level. By tapping into an already active and aware network, such communities are primed to overturn standard operating practices in favor of unconventional alternatives. As he said, if a movement like zero-kilometer food could be promoted more thoroughly, transnational food companies would already be bankrupt. Mr. Zamagni added that extensive social movements have proven their ability to influence government and policy makers: ‘These key players embedded in the current system need to be transformed to support alternatives.’ He also discussed the importance of economic diversity. ‘We need more socially-driven enterprises. Other alternative business models need to be developed and supported because currently they are often repressed and discouraged and remain as a small niche on the fringes of an economy dominated by big multinationals.’
Slow Food advocates are already working towards this future every day, beginning with conscious consumer choices. As Latouche and Zamagni outlined, starting from individual actions, we can build momentum towards collective, national and international progress towards a cleaner, fairer and more sustainable world.
By Claire Ryan for Slow Food International